Surgery to restore upper extremity function in tetraplegia—Preferences for early and frequent access to information

Allison J. L'Hotta, Aimee S. James, Catherine M. Curtin, Carie Kennedy, Deborah Kenney, Katharine Tam, Doug Ota, Katherine Stenson, Christine B. Novak, Ida K. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: People with cervical spinal cord injury (SCI) identify improving upper extremity (UE) function as a top priority. In addition to comprehensive rehabilitation, UE surgeries, including nerve and tendon transfers, enhance function. However, barriers exist to disseminating information about surgical options to enhance UE function. Objective: To assess the experiences and preferences of people with cervical SCI and their caregivers in accessing information about surgery to enhance UE function. Design: Prospective cohort study. Participants were followed up for 24 months and completed up to three interviews. Setting: Tertiary care at academic and affiliated Veterans Administration Health Care Centers. Participants: Adults with cervical SCI (n = 35) ages 18 to 80 years with mid-cervical SCI American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale A, B, or C (at least 6 months post-injury) and their caregivers (n = 23) were eligible to participate. Participants were enrolled in three groups: nerve transfer, tendon transfer, or no UE reconstructive surgery. Interventions: Not applicable. Main Outcome Measure: Semi-structured interviews about surgical knowledge and experiences. Results: Data were analyzed and three themes were identified. First, providing information about UE surgical options early post-injury was recommended. The acute or inpatient rehabilitation phases of recovery were the preferred times to receive surgical information. Second, challenges with information dissemination were identified. Participants learned about UE surgery through independent research, medical provider interactions, or peers. Third, peers were identified as valuable resources for SCI needs and surgical information. Conclusions: Following cervical SCI, information about UE reconstructive surgeries should be a standard component of education during rehabilitation. An increased understanding of the reconstructive options available to improve UE function is necessary to educate stakeholders. Future research is needed to support the development of strategies to effectively present surgical information to individuals with SCI and health care providers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-741
Number of pages11
JournalPM and R
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023


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